By Dylan Love
Do you read ingredients? Do you read them closely enough to notice your favorite snack might actually be a real bummer?
It’s increasingly difficult to be health-conscious nowadays. There are major differences in how the American food industry operates versus other countries, differences of attitude in what is an acceptable ingredient and how much is too much. It’s well-illustrated by this 2013 list of eight ingredients that appear in our food on the regular that are banned overseas.
Read on — if you dare — to learn about what you probably didn’t know your food is doing to you.
1. Wraps, rolls, flatbread, bagel chips, etc.
Those carbs that are “good” for you are actually sporting an additive called potassium bromate. It strengthens the dough in such a way that it takes less time to bake, a nifty little food-hack that lowers the cost of producing and distributing your pita chips on a significant scale.
But potassium bromate has been connected to kidney and nervous system disorders and gastrointestinal discomfort. It has also been identified as a potential carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The additive hasn’t been banned in the U.S. yet, but the FDA has issued a curiously worded request of bakers to “voluntarily choose other additives.”
Meanwhile Canada, China, Brazil and all of Europe have officially banned use of the chemical in food products.
2. Fat-free potato chips.
If you think fat-free potato chips are a better snack decision than original or flavored chips, consider this: “light” chips are made with a chemical called olestra — also called Olean — a fat substitute that “makes you real fat,” according to a study by Purdue University. It robs you of your fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, eliminates some important micronutrients, and will actually land you on the toilet for hours. It can induce a lot of unpleasant side effects in humans, like oily anal leakage, stomach cramps, and dissolving compounds in your intestines.
Canada and the United Kingdom have banned this ingredient completely, but some Americans consume it daily, thinking they’re making a healthy decision.
3. Frozen dinners.
In Singapore, you can pay a $500,000 fine and serve 15 years in prison if your food company uses azodicarbonamide, a chemical that bleaches the flour in frozen dinners, breads, pasta mixes, and other packaged baked goods. It’s also found in foamy plastic products like yoga mats and sneaker soles, and has been linked to asthma issues.
It remains a legal food ingredient in the United States, but has been officially banned in Australia, the U.K. and most European countries. Food companies in these places make do without azodicarbonamide by waiting for their flour to whiten naturally. Hmmm.
4. Apples (non-organic).
Despite the brilliant grassroots marketing that one of these a day keeps the doctor away, most American apples are treated with a registered pesticide called diphenylamine (DPA) to give them their sheer, glossy coat. DPA prevents them from going bad during long months in storage and is part of the chemistry that lets apples be sold in our grocery stores year-round. This chemical is entirely banned in Europe since 2012 because its makers couldn’t prove that it didn’t harm humans; eating an unwashed non-organic apple means you’re putting DPA in your body. So eat an apple a day, but make sure it’s organic!
Keep an eye out for these chemicals on your labels so you can keep on snacking happy!